Hitting Rock Bottom and Moving Forward
“I have found that the process of discovering who I really am begins with knowing who I really don't want to be.” -Alcoholics Anonymous
I think every human experiences a “rock bottom.” It looks different for everyone, some uglier than others. As sucky as these low points are, if you look back and can’t identify one, I feel like you might be doing life wrong.
Mine (thus far, I’m only 27, so plenty of time for screw-ups) occurred somewhere in the first half of 2014.
Allow me to set the scene for you. I was in an on-again period with my then-boyfriend, Devon. Actually, we were engaged to be married. We'd been on/off for about 8 years at this point. Devon had long suffered from depression and his coping mechanism had escalated from alcohol to heroin. I didn't use drugs, but adopted my own security blankets. We lived in a rental house in an OK-but-not-fantastic part of town. I’d found full-time employment after having recently been fired, but my self-esteem was pretty well shot from the rejection.
I was burdened with the overwhelming sensation of being “stuck.” Being in a relationship with an addict came with sacrifice. The future was uncertain and extremely dependent on whether or not he was using. Devon had a decent job at this point, but there was always a question of whether his drug use would impact his employment. Devon used to numb his mental struggles and underneath the high lurked a troubled emotional state.
After 8 years, I’d hoped Devon and I would have grown past the issues of our youth. We hadn’t. In fact, we’d devolved in some ways. We talked less often. We laughed less often. Maybe we were avoiding the elephant in the room, I don’t know. He’d work, come home, and spend hours in the garage tinkering with a car, or in his “office” doing whatever he did in there.
Despite our distance, I still loved him. I still had compassion for him. I also felt some sense of responsibility...the notion that if I left him, his entire world would fall apart. I couldn’t possibly let that happen. I needed to save him. Codependent much?
I wanted a house of our own more than anything. I paid the majority of the household bills during this time. I made enough to cover our expenses, but not enough to save for the home I so desperately desired. What I truly desired was stability and a "normal" life, but I was unable to see that at the time.
In all these ways, I felt stuck. Stuck in a relationship that wasn’t healthy. Stuck in a house that wasn’t mine. I wanted more, so I took more.
Unfortunately, I chose to take from the wrong places.
I ate. A lot. Though I ate pretty openly with Devon, I also secretly binged. I distinctly remember buying bags of cookies from the Walmart bakery on my lunch break and eating the whole bag in my car. Eat the cookies, destroy the evidence. I’d eat ice-cream straight from the container while hovering in front of the freezer. I’d swirl the remaining ice cream around with my spoon to try to disguise the scoop marks, just in case Devon happened to look. I wasn’t even enjoying the treats, I medicated with them.
I don’t know exactly how much weight I gained during this period, but I know my self-esteem took a massive blow. I’d look in the mirror, feel sad about the figure staring back at me, and then go attempt eat those feelings away. I was in my early twenties, feeling like I should be at my physical prime, and instead I felt ugly, fat, and depressed.
When food would no longer comfort me, a new diversion presented itself. It started as an innocent Facebook messenger conversation with a guy. Then that turned to texting. The text messages got inappropriate quickly and though fully aware that it was wrong, I chose not to shut it down. The attention felt incredibly good. It was better than ice cream. Me and said guy eventually met up. We had sex. I think I saw him on three different occasions before Devon found out what was going on.
As you might imagine, the whole thing didn’t go over well. Devon moved out of our house and I was left alone. This was my rock bottom.
Let me be clear: the takeaways from my rock bottom were not learned in the moment. I hung out down there for a good long while.
I could write a whole separate blog post about my scramble to re-identify myself in a manner that would help me cope with and rationalize my guilt. I bleached my hair, changed my style of dress, dabbled in a pagan religion, and lately, I've wondered if my weight loss wasn't a part of that reinvention as well. It’s been years of ups and downs, of reflection, and prayer to at last find the message in my mess.
The number one notion I’ve wrestled with is: am I a bad person?
Overall, I’ve considered myself to be a “good” person. I do what is expected with me, I go to church, I remember and acknowledge people’s birthdays, and I don’t cheat on my partner. Except for that time I did. I made a serious error in judgement and someone else was hurt as a result. I did something I’ve condemned others for. So, do I deserve condemnation?
I've spent a long while hating on myself, guys. Feeling as if every negative circumstance in my life that followed to be punishment for my sins.
In the process of forgiving myself, the conclusion I’ve reached is that there’s not really “good” people or “bad” people. We’re malleable beings, always capable of change. Our definition is fluid and only final upon our last breath.
This notion kind of kills my inner control freak task manager. I would love nothing more than to be able to write out a defining statement of who I am and check that box off as "done." But our definition is ever changing- sculpted by every relationship, experience, belief, failure, success, etc.
No person can absolve or validate us. Only we and God know our heart. The question is not whether we deserve condemnation- as sinners, we all do. The question is whether or not your heart is willing to accept the forgiveness of a Father whose grace and mercy is infinite.
I think a lot of “bad” people are simply people who feel beyond redemption. The truth I wish we could all embrace, is that our regrets don't need to define us.
You can choose to submit to your guilt and shame or you can choose to accept your imperfection and strive to be better tomorrow.
I fucked up. I have no problem acknowledging that. I’m a flawed being who will fuck up more before this ride is over, but I’m never beyond a new path and you aren't either, bees.
So. I know I don't want to be the girl that eats her feelings or cheats on her partner.
But what about not being the girl who doesn't ask for help?
If you're reading this in the midst of your own rock-bottom, know that I feel for you.You're never alone and we weren't designed to be isolated in our struggles. If I'd had the wherewithal to reach out, I would have found a counselor to talk to. I felt unable to talk to my family or friends about the issues Devon and I were having- another reason I felt "stuck." We're often not strong enough to handle our challenges single-handedly, but there is strength in community. I desperately needed to ask for help. To ask for help from God and to seek guidance from a professional. More information on counseling can be found below.
I can see the blessing in my experience exactly the way it played out.
Most days, I feel that blessing. I feel like I've made it to the other side. I've gained insight, wisdom, and faith.
Above all, I've learned exactly who I don't want to be.
If you feel like no one will understand, I recommend starting with a counselor or therapist. An unbiased ear to hear your truth. If finances are an obstacle, there are low-cost options available. Your local university may have a therapy intern program and your church may have counselors available as well.
In Charlotte, I’ve personally seen two different counselors at Pfeiffer University’s Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic, both positive experiences. For more information, please visit their page here
I’ve also seen a counselor at Forest Hill Church’s Care + Counseling program. Forest Hill offers free short term counseling to their members. More information on that program can be found here
Good Therapy provides a directory of licensed therapists and can be found here